By Jeff White (email@example.com)
CHARLOTTESVILLE – For the University of Virginia baseball team, how its season will be remembered figures to be determined largely by a stretch that starts May 11. With final exams winding down on Grounds, UVA will host Longwood in a non-conference game that night and then move on its final two ACC series: the first at home against Clemson (May 13-15) and the second at No. 10 Louisville (May 19-21).
Before breaking for finals, however, the Cavaliers have another game to play. VCU, which edged Virginia 9-7 last month in Richmond, visits Disharoon Park for a 6 pm non-conference clash Tuesday.
The Rams, who compete in the Atlantic 10 Conference, are 25-17 overall. The Wahoos are 33-12. In ACC play, UVA is 14-10 after dropping the deciding game of its series with Virginia Tech at Disharoon Park.
“Two very, very good teams,” Virginia head coach Brian O’Connor said Sunday, “and they came out on top.”
The Hokies won the series opener 5-2 on Friday night. The Hoos bounced back to win 6-3 in front of a record crowd Saturday, and they led 4-0 after three innings Sunday, only to see Tech rally for a 7-5 victory.
“Our guys are disappointed. They’re frustrated, “O’Connor said after the game.
“At the end of the day, these close ACC games always come down to execution,” UVA left-fielder Alex Tappen said, “and I think they had a couple more guys step up in different facets than we did, and that’s the result. . ”
UVA had been 26-0 when leading after three innings this season.
“Obviously, it hurts,” said Tappen, a fifth-year senior who hit two home runs Sunday. “Everyone’s [annoyed]but you gotta learn from it. ”
O’Connor said: “There’s still a lot of opportunity for us. I told the team after the game we have an opportunity to learn and grow from this, and we’re nowhere near the team right now that I think we’ll be at the end of May. We’re still figuring out who are the right options out of the bullpen and in what scenarios, and unfortunately that showed today. “
UVA fell three spots to No. 14 in the D1Baseball poll released Monday, and Virginia Tech climbed two spots to No. 5. Virginia blasted three home runs Sunday — center-field Chris Newell had the other one — but mustered only three hits in the final seven innings. Tech’s 11 hits, meanwhile, all came in the final six innings. The Hokies totaled four hits in the seventh inning, when they scored three runs to take the lead for good.
“We had home runs, three of them today, but I believe to score a lot of runs, you’ve got to put a bunch of hits together, like they did in the seventh inning,” O’Connor said. “A bunch of guys put the ball in play.”
Tappen said: “You’re not always going to have those games where [the scoring is] gonna be like a waterfall and it’s all gonna come in one inning. You’ve got to have really good at-bats, and you’ve got to stay quality in our approach, and I think Virginia Tech just did a little [better job at that]. ”
The loss tarnished a memorable weekend for the program. The games drew a total of 16,277 fans, a UVA record for a three-game series. Saturday was Ryan Zimmerman Day at Disharoon Parker, and a crowd of 5,919, the most ever for a game at UVA, turned out for the occasion.
“It’s just awesome to see Charlottesville coming together and kind of getting behind us,” Tappen said. “This was just amazing, and I’m super thankful for every single fan that came out here and supported us, especially all year.”
The Hoos wanted to reward their fans with a series victory, and that did not happen. Still, O’Connor said, his players can not afford to let their disappointment that linger.
“We’ll get back to work,” he said, “and we’ll put all of our focus on VCU on Tuesday and bring all of our energy to that game and play the best game we can play.”